Guest Blog – A Family Story – Joanne Hennigan

19th September 2017 was the day I got the phone call and life would never be the same again. My dad had fallen off the roof of his house whilst doing repairs and broken his spine in two places. It was 10 days before his 65th birthday.





The funny thing about life is that you can never prepare for these things. People spend their time worrying about mundane every day stuff, never thinking that in an instant their lives can be side swiped.


After surgery and an intensive 6 month hospital stay, during which time he also contracted sepsis which almost took him from us, he was discharged home and we had to learn how to adjust to this new life. My mum is his primary care giver.  I know she doesn’t find it easy, she’s suffered for many years with her own mental health problems, which isn’t helped by the fact that on my dad’s down days, she’ll be the one to get it in the neck, but despite that, she’s been an absolute champion.

We’re very aware that despite the severity of his injury, there are many who have suffered much worse.  We met a lot of them during my dad’s time in hospital.  The main thing I took away from being introduced into this new community of people is the inner strength people find when faced with such adversity.  All around us there were the sounds of giggles and banter as new friendships were being formed.


My dad has always been my rock. The person who, prior to his accident, had spent the previous 3 years helping me out with my three young boys.  It’s the simple things you miss.  On particularly testing days he would make me an egg butty and a cup of tea with a chocolate biscuit and everything felt like it would all be OK.  We’d spend hours while the kids napped putting the world to rights. It was a time when I bonded with my dad in a different way to the father-daughter relationship we’d had for the previous 40 years.

And then in an instant life changed.  The last two years have been a struggle, I won’t lie.  It’s been a true rollercoaster of ups and downs for the whole family, none more so than my mum and dad.  But he’s fighting back. Last week, he made his first trip out on his own in 2 years by getting on the train and coming to my house. Back to helping me pick the kids up from school and take them for haircuts.


My dad has always been fiercely independent and active, and I know this is something he finds so frustrating on a daily basis.  He hates having to rely on others to achieve simple tasks.  He hates that when he sets out to do something that would’ve previously taken him 10 minutes, it now takes him all day.  But he won’t be deterred.  He’ll still rather do that than spend his afternoon sat in front of Judge Rinder Sure, there have been ups and downs and at times he’s felt like he’s taken two steps forward and three steps back.  But his determination has never faltered for long. 


I guess the message here is that although it’s never easy and life will never be quite what it was before, there is a new, different life after spinal cord injury for those people lucky enough to be given the opportunity to fight for it, and with family and friends around them to help them on the way.